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Since the beginning of the season, Arsenal fans have been treated to a new look side, one that combines hard work with flair and a swagger that has gone unmatched by most. Due mostly to the poor goalscoring form of new signing Olivier Giroud, Arsène Wenger has opted for a new face to spearhead the attack, that of Gervinho.
Signed from previous Ligue 1 champions Lille in 2010, Gervinho was seen as a classic bargain basement signing by Arsène Wenger. Many looked down upon Gervinho as a slightly lesser version of Eden Hazard, calling him second best. Gervinho had and still has many skeptics, but his sudden rise in form shows there’s more than one dimension to the Ivorian.
Last year, Gervinho was employed solely as a winger, given the simple job of assisting goal machine van Persie, and to offer a direct threat in buildup play from the flanks. Unfortunately, he didn’t offer much to the team in either realm, simply because his style clashed with that of Arsène’s.
Stats from his lukewarm inaugural season said what everybody already knew: Gervinho is not a wide man. In 19 starts and 9 substitution appearances, he managed a paltry 4 goals, and 6 assists. He was nothing if not inconsistent, drawing criticism for his lack of sharpness in front of goal, and his tendency to linger in possession.
With the form of Theo Walcott reaching new heights along a fit RVP, and the emergence of young Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho has always had to fight or a spot on the flanks.
This year, we’ve been introduced to a new beast. It’s always been well-known that Gervinho was capable as a centre forward, and was rumoured to have favoured the position, but his physique had always limited his chances down the middle of the park.
As of yet, Arsène has decided to take a gamble on moving the Ivorian to the middle of the pitch, and for the most part it seems a decision that should have been made earlier. There are many weak spots that remain in his game, but Gervinho is suited to the most direct role possible. He’s not a playmaker, he’s a finisher and a direct goal threat.
Despite his shortcomings, Gervinho has grown into a competent central forward in a very short space of time. Yes, there are things about him you simply can’t fix; he’s not tall, hence he’s not a target man. He’s not a physical presence, so driving attacks through the middle can be difficult.
Among other things, Gervinho can be considered a false 9. He’s at his best when he’s out of position. It may sound odd on the face, but consider all the goals he’s scored lately. It’s been due to him drifting out of position, swapping with Lukas Podolski, and popping up in the right place at the right time to slot the ball home. He’s not perfect, and his first touch could definitely use some work, but you can’t argue with 4 goals in 4 appearances down the middle.
Overall, Gervinho is an incomplete package. At present, there’s something he lacks, and he will only improve with consistent playing time. At 25 years of age, he’s coming into the prime of his career, and I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.
Look out for him on the scoreboard vs. West Ham today!
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Written by Anders Marshall
Follow him on Twitter @MarshallArsenal
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